Monday, May 4, 2015

Paul Cook(R-CA-08) and Steve Knight(R-CA-25) VOTE TO CUT BENEFITS TO UPWARDS OF 70,000--Bad news!

Reps. Xavier Becerra of California and Joseph Crowley of New York, the chairman and vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus respectively, told reporters they would not be complicit in passing the fiscal 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill this week that Republicant Congressmen Paul Cook and Steve Knight voted for — a bill they contend would ultimately decimate veterans services, according to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, who addressed the House Democratic Caucus at its weekly closed-door meeting.
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Veteran Affairs Secretary McDonald stated: ‘Please don’t let this funding bill become law [as] up to 70,000 veterans would lose services if the pending bill became law.
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“Virtually, if not every, veteran services organization opposes the cuts in the MilCon-VA bill,” added Crowley, who characterized the bill’s handling of the Veterans Affairs department as “privatizing” the agency, something he called “a farce.”
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While this bill may provide $4.6 billion more in funding for these projects than last year, it undercuts the President’s request by over $1 billion — our service members deserve more.
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The bill provides a total of $7.7 billion for military construction projects (not health care!!)– This includes funds for large and small construction and renovation projects on military bases within the U.S. and around the globe (. Of the amount provided for Military Construction projects, $532 million is provided for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).  This bill funds a program that builds infrastructure to support NATO operations--say what??
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Veterans Affairs is typically the least controversial spending bill, with lawmakers in both parties usually reluctant to cast a vote that could be portrayed as anti-veteran. Obama declined to issue a veto threat on the MilCon-VA proposal on the House floor last year, though the White House Statement of Administrative Policy took issue with numerous provisions.
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Obama’s has stated his intention to veto this time around..and so should we encourage him!!
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Bob Conaway
22269 Miramot Road
Apple Valley CA 92308
(760) 617-8305

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Paul Cook's [R, CA-08] , Pete Aguilar's [D, CA-31] and Steve Knight's [R, CA-25] Vote for H.R. 1470 [now H.R. 2] is the beginning of the end for Medicare....

Repost of a great press release:
[http://www.truth-out.org/…/29890-background-on-the-2015-sgr…]
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Repeal SGR, but Don't Privatize MedicareThursday, 26 March 2015 00:00 By Ida Hellander, Physicians for a National Health Program | Press Release
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The bipartisan "Doc Fix" legislation (H.R. 1470, now H.R. 2) and proposed amendments will undermine traditional Medicare and advance the goal of privatization, according to Dr. Don McCanne in a series of posts to his popular health policy blog, the Quote of the Day. If enacted as it presently reads, it will:
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1. Limit choice of physician in traditional Medicare. Physicians in traditional Medicare would be subject to onerous new documentation requirements for payment and financial incentives to avoid complex patients under the proposed "Merit-based Incentive Payment System." The additional paperwork burden will push physicians to stop seeing patients with traditional Medicare, retire, avoid older and sicker patients, or go to work for large organizations using “alternative payment models” (which are exempt from the requirement and more likely to have contracts with private Medicare plans).
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2. Reduce access to care in traditional Medicare. Imposes a deductible that cannot be covered by Medigap insurance (starting in 2020) to encourage patients to join a private plan. The current Part B deductible is $147 annually, although that figure has been rising in recent years; 95 percent of traditional Medicare beneficiaries have supplemental insurance that covers the deductible and other cost sharing in Medicare. The only way to avoid the deductible in the future will be to join a private Medicare Advantage plan.
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3. Raise Medicare’s costs by driving more patients into private Medicare Advantage plans. Private plans have already cost Medicare an excess of more than $282 billion since 1985. Mandatory deductibles and reduced access to physicians in traditional Medicare will drive more patients into private Medicare Advantage plans, which are more costly than the cost of caring for patients in the traditional fee-for-service program. Although Obamacare was supposed to reduce the amount the private plans are overpaid (the “Medicare cuts” in Obamacare), these have been mostly offset by “adjustments” and “quality awards” by the Department of Health and Human Services.
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4. Undermine Medicare's popular support by requiring higher income seniors to pay higher premiums (means testing). Under means-tested premiums, higher-income individuals will be required to pay larger premiums, undermining the support of this influential group for Medicare program. Although the income subject to extra premiums is high, it can always be reduced in the future.
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5. Ending the SGR should cost $20 billion, not $210 billion. These drastic measures aren't even necessary. According to Bruce Vladeck, a former top administrator at Medicare, “Since the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) was implemented in 1998, total Medicare physician expenditures have exceeded the allowed amounts by only $20 billion (on a total of almost $1 trillion). To recoup that all in one year would require a 21 percent reduction in fees for one year. And those reduced fees would then become the base for payment levels in all subsequent years. In a rational world, Congress would write off the $20 billion as a relatively small policy error and establish a more realistic prospective formula. But under Congressional budget rules, the cost of doing so is not $20 billion, but $20 billion per year, compounded by inflation, times 10 years.”
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6. The GOP sees this bill as a step towards their longer-term goal of turning Medicare into a voucher program for private plans, shifting more costs onto patients. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., a staunch conservative, told the Washington Post he is supporting the bill because it will lead to much greater savings beyond the traditional 10-year time frame for estimating costs. Newt Gingrich stated the GOP’s goal succinctly in 1996: “Now, we don't get rid of it [Medicare] in round one because we don't think that that's politically smart, and we don't think that's the right way to go through a transition. But we believe it's going to wither on the vine because we think people are voluntarily going to leave it -- voluntarily.”
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7. Other features:
Continues funding for safety-net programs
* Two-year extension for CHIP
* Two-year ($7.2 billion) extension for Community Health Centers
Restricts abortion, adds funds for war
* Makes Hyde Amendment permanent law. Since the ACA is a permanent statute, any amendment to any part of the ACA becomes part of U.S. Code.
* $94 billion in additional military spending in an “off-budget account.”

Paul Cook [CA-08] and his Republican Thugs Want to Fund their buds' Tax Cuts and Special Interest Giveaways on the Back of Social Security..same broken record

Michael Phelan @ Social Security Works [source: michael.phelan@socialsecurityworks.org]:

"Five years ago, when the mainstream media said "everybody knows Social Security benefits will be cut soon," we fought back. When they insisted that expanding Social Security was a fringe issue that nobody should take seriously, we fought back. The fight continues, but I want you to see how far we have come.

Over the last couple of days, 115 of the 188 Democratic members of the House and 42 Democratic Senators have voted to support expanding Social Security benefits. Just before recessing this morning, the entire Senate was put on record on how they plan to handle the future of Social Security. And these votes hold major implications for 2016 and beyond.

During a marathon budget “vote-a-rama,” two important Social Security amendments were offered. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) offered an amendment protecting all Americans against cuts to Social Security benefits. And around 2:30 in the morning, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) offered an amendment advocating for the expansion of Social Security.

Every Democratic Senator who was present but two voted to expand Social Security. Every Democrat but one voted against all cuts.

In sharp contrast, no Republican voted to expand Social Security.

The Democratic Party has apparently re-discovered what they stand for:
Shared economic prosperity; a secure retirement future; and a strong social safety net to keep millions of veterans, children, and disabled workers from falling into poverty.

Together we have moved nearly the entire Democratic caucus from cuts to expansion. This is a monumental moment in our fight to protect and expand Social Security’s modest benefits.

Right now, the average annual Social Security benefit is just $14,000. These earned benefits are crucial to over 59 million Americans, two-thirds of whom rely on Social Security for the majority of their retirement income. It lifts more than twenty million Americans -- including more than a million children -- out of poverty each year. And it lessens the depth of poverty for millions more. It provides a floor of economic protection under our nation's workers and their families.

But this hasn’t stopped the Republican Party from launching an all-out attack on our earned Social Security benefits. Since day one of the new Congress, Republicans have been manufacturing phony crises and promoting policies that benefit their friends on Wall Street instead of protecting the retirement security of millions of hardworking Americans. They want us to believe that Social Security is going broke and won’t be there for future generations.

The truth is that Social Security has a $2.8 trillion surplus, can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 18 years and approximately 80% of benefits owed after that. And all we need to do is ask the very wealthy to start paying their fair share and we can not only extend the lifespan of the Social Security trust fund, we can expand benefits for millions of Americans.

These votes have major implications for 2016 and beyond providing the American people with a clear alternative to the Republican Party’s dangerous policies of cuts and privatization.

If Social Security expansion becomes the number one issue in the upcoming presidential race, it is going to make for a very interesting election".


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Blogger Bob's thoughts: Heh, Cook has his military and Assembly pensions, tri-care and Cal-Vet benefits--what does he care? The race to the bottom has got to end soon because when the vets and retirees hit it, there will be little to nothing left to bail them out.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Paul C(r)ook Votes to Allow the Federal Government to Tell California How to Manage its Water for Special Interests (Again)

H.R. 5781, the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014 gives the US (federal) Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior (Secretaries) emergency authority, subject to existing water rights, to direct the operations of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and allow the State Water Project (SWP) operated by the California Department of Water Resources to provide the maximum quantity of water supplies possible to CVP agricultural, municipal and industrial, and refuge service repayment contractors and SWP contractors--NOTHING is allocated to consumers or businesses or water district in the 8th Congressional District--which is pretty parched. What is more amazing is there is no specified limit to the amount of the diversion [See https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr5781#summary].
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The water in issue is all intrastate (e.g. within the state) so where does Congress find jurisdiction for this take away for special interest corporate and institutional users?

Colonel Paul C(r)ook Discriminates Against Vets by his Vote under HR 22 Assuming SR-22 Does Anything New.

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the `Hire More Heroes Act of 2015'.

SEC. 2. EMPLOYEES WITH HEALTH COVERAGE UNDER TRICARE OR THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION NOT TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT IN DETERMINING EMPLOYERS TO WHICH THE EMPLOYER MANDATE APPLIES UNDER PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT.

    (a) In General- Section 4980H(c)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by adding at the end the following:
        `(F) EXEMPTION FOR HEALTH COVERAGE UNDER TRICARE OR THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION- Solely for purposes of determining whether an employer is an applicable large employer under this paragraph for any month, an individual shall not be taken into account as an employee for such month if such individual has medical coverage for such month under--
          `(i) chapter 55 of title 10, United States Code, including coverage under the TRICARE program, or
          `(ii) under a health care program under chapter 17 or 18 of title 38, United States Code, as determined by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in coordination with the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary.'.
    (b) Effective Date- The amendment made by subsection (a) shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013.
Passed the House of Representatives January 6, 2015

Bob's Comment: Ok, so what does it do? It allows employers to NOT count vets in the number of employees considered for purposes of what triggers an Affordable Care Act obligation by an employer. That's all. It does not create a job. It gives no incentives to hire vets. There is no indication it will save any employer money or reduce the number of employers who have to buy coverage. In fact guys, since the Affordable Care Act kicks people out who are already eligible for government funded care, it does nothing, except make for some bizarre press. If it did make a difference (e.g. the vet does not get kicked out because they have an eligible plan), isn't the vet being denial additional care that might pick up a co-pay, a deductible or even allow the vet to make a physician choice he/she can't make under the VA's plan or DOD's plan.
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Col. Paul C(r)ook's Latest Blathers on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Cook's latest letter shows a pattern & practice of labeling fraud

 . . . "Congressman Cook Votes to Improve Job Opportunities
Congressman Cook was pleased to support bipartisan legislation, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

This legislation is important for many Americans who are looking for work and for the employers who have job opportunities that remain unfilled due to the skills gap – meaning they have been unable to find workers with the training necessary for the job offered. Closing this gap will improve the lives of many American job seekers while helping our economy grow. The bill, which was signed into law, modernizes and improves existing federal workforce development programs, helps workers attain skills for 21st century jobs, and provides support to people with disabilities to enter and remain in competitive, integrated job settings. "

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Ok you've read the babble, so what does it do??
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Nothing except burden the existing Job Corps program with reporting, creating new delays in funding and implementation, which is in a fast changing job market and economy, is planned obsolescence

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Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
(WIOA) Key Statutorily Required Implementation
Dates for Programs Administered by the Department of Labor
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SEE: http://www.doleta.gov/wioa/pdf/WIOA-Key-Implementation-Dates.pdf [Chart]
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January 18, 2015  the Department of Labor (DOL), Department of Education (ED) and Department of Health and Human Services must publish a notice of proposed rule making no later than 180 days after enactment-- so nothing is done to train or create jobs today; if anything this creates a new layer of government to get on the way of releasing funds to needed job training
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Starting in January 2015, the Job Corps has to submit financial reports ever quarter--so this is legislation adds a burden an existing program with more reporting
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State & Local Plans: continue to apply for funding in July 2015--
people need help now,  so what is being done now (other than making the Job Corps do more reporting?) 
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Eligible Training Providers provisions are implemented by Governors & Boards (not later than 12 mos. after enactment)--so based on this, the States and Feds can wait a year!
Template for performance reports by state, local, and Eligible Training Providers must be developed by Secretary of Labor and Secretary of Education within 12 months after the date of enactment--so performance evaluations, which need to be done for funding, can be done a year later--big help!
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DOL, ED and HHS must publish Final Rules to implement WIOA (18 months after enactment) of by January 22, 2016--wow.... so final implementation won't be (and funding obviously can't happen before implementation folks)!
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Bob's comment: The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is a way to DELAY funding of job training programs. The Bill was passed in July of LAST year--two years later final rules get enacted to implement the program? So what happens in the interim,  job training is throttled...so in effect it is a funding cut and no action on job training. Money is NOT going out and what little does go out, is forced to endure  (See chart) thresholds that NONE of the existing programs or ones in recent memory had to go through. Maybe Paul Cook needs to go without pay for two years so he can push for implementation of a bill that helps. Paul Cook has been on the dole too long to know a hungry day or the feeling of a repossessed car or foreclosed upon home. Useless. We are leaderless and the people needing job training are serious screwed. Thanks Paul Crook.
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